B & M or Online, sometimes the choice is made for us.

Retrorocket go!

I started a small business in Perth, Western Australia in March 2010. A love of books and retro collectables inspired my decision and planning, hard work and luck has kept it going thus far.

The main reason Retrorocket is online is because it was the only way that I could achieve my goal of having a small business of my own by now. I am aware that the fledgling business is not perfect but it is as perfect as I could get it in the time I have had with the resources available!

I had sketchily planned for the dream of owning a small bookshop for at least eight years and have continuously gathered the skills necessary to succeed in the difficult first year. This has meant that I have made different long term choices by studying and working part-time; eschewing the comparatively more moneyed lifestyle of full-time work.

In other words, I now have experience in website maintenance, administration, accounting and various forms of media. I also have had the luxury of watching my son grow up close to hand. On the negative side, juggling part-time work, study, house and a teenager means that my financial position has never been completely predictable!

However, my choice was made with careful planning and saving: knowing I had a small amount of capital and a large amount of work ahead of me.
There is also no better way to learn than hands-on: I have developed my bookkeeping / administration skills, learnt backend site and cart development and am now focussing on Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and outreach. I am also aware I have so much more to learn, and that this will never stop.

Although I sell primarily online I do support the local: all my stock is sourced predominantly locally or interstate, and when I purchase for the personal I patronise local business as much as possible. On saying that, if a customer needs a specific book within a budget I will source from overseas if needed.

Arguably a bricks and mortar (B&M) enterprise is much more challenging than an online business; especially in the area of overhead costs, but I think there are still valid challenges facing an online shop owner; albeit different ones.

For example, when compared to the ‘real space’ customer experience of a B&M shop, online buying can seem muted. It is a continuous challenge to represent the tactile experience of browsing a physical shopfront and I have learnt more about photography / display than I ever imagined I’d need and know that it is not yet enough.

Since the beginning I have learnt more about running an online business than I ever thought possible. As of October 1 I also have a stall at a local market to sell stock overflow, am looking forward to improving Retrorocket’s outreach and my knowledge of the challenging world of online (and offline) business.

This ‘real space’ of the market is energising: one of the main reasons I have set up a market stall one day a week is that I missed the face-to-face interaction with people. I now appreciate the potential joy of a B&M shop more than I did before.

I am also aware that despite my ever growing knowledge and experience I have never specialised in any one thing. However, as a Jill of all trades I do get a lot done. I subscribe to the Pareto principle and essentially aim to achieve the most I can, at the highest standard, in a timely way. This means I am happy with the gradual build-up of the business and my skill set; the polish is left for more sedate times (whenever they arrive!).

In conclusion, although the overhead costs of an online business may not be high when compared to a B&M shop; other costs incurred and experience gained by the demands of an online shop are not necessarily less valid. When there was a choice between having an online shop or having no shop I chose the virtual solution.

Kylie Jakobsen
Retro Rocket

5 thoughts on “B & M or Online, sometimes the choice is made for us.”

  1. In my opinion you followed a very ideal path and thats the reason why you go succeeded and I would like to add that if you focus on the customers you ll have a lot of advantage in the start of your business.

  2. While I was still a teenager I remember reading that each of us has some asset or some skill others would pay for if we could figure out how to develop the market. In the fifty years since then that snippet of information has proven itself true thousands of times – mostly for others, I’m afraid, but once in a while for myself.

    There is a book called Nichecraft which deals with the subject quite succinctly. It describes a successful life as a triangle – the base of the triangle is all the skills and knowledge each one of us can bring to the market. The second arm of the triangle is lengthened by all the hopes and dreams these skills and knowledge allow our imagination to develop. The triangle is then completed by how much or how little of you and your life you are willing to give up in order to acquire all you dared to dream about in this life.

    Most of us contentedly (or not) live out our lives in familiar territory like a meandering stream pleasantly adding to the landscape here and there but ultimately destined to create a pretty pond or a dry creek bed.

    Dreaming big or little – each has its own consequences, frustrations and rewards – in the end it all seems to boil down to how many people’s lives you can touch in a positive way.

    • Hi George
      Thank you for your lovely, thought-provoking comments: all my life I have tried to be positive and help others as much as I realistically can:)

      I really responded to the triangle imagery and will keep an eye (and a search engine) out for Nichecraft


  3. Very nice story and i hope all is going well with your store. I am just in the process of starting a online business after years of owning a bricks and mortar business.

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